Skip to main content

Stats Manipulated to Scare

Grandpappy Folta once said, "When someone gives you an opportunity to see what they are about, pay attention." 

He was right. The true measurement of character and someone's real agenda oftentimes are presented at shimmering moments that reveal quite a bit. 

Such is the case of the Huffington Post article by Michael Hansen.  For those that don't know Dr. Hansen, he's a guy with a science background that works for the Consumer's Union, and never has much nice to say about biotech.  I actually got to meet him a few years ago at the Hofstra Pride and Purpose debate, and we had a nice dinner together. I felt bad for him in that he seems to have a stick-to script and a deep self deception that makes him immune to actual scientific discussion of data. Watch the debate. You'll see it oozing everywhere.  He sounds more a politician than a scientist, as you can see by his manipulation of pseudo facts and dodging questions.

Here's the part that anyone on the fence with the GMO issue must read.  When they have to fool you with statistics by misrepresenting them, should you believe anything they say? 

The same kind of bendy word choice and hysterical reasoning is reflected in this passage from his May 29, 2015 article in Huffington Post. 

I've seen this statistic circulating a lot lately, especially the "17-fold increase between 1996 and 2012".   Yes, that certainly is an awfully huge increase!   Scary eh? 

What he forgets to tell you is that prior to 1996 glyphosate use was confined to some farm, residential and municipal use. There were no glyphosate tolerant crops in 1995, so the amount of stuff used on glyphosate-tolerant crops would probably be pretty low, like none.  

Once these crops were introduced and proved helpful for farmers, the technology was rapidly adopted. You might expect a rather dramatic increase.  Of course, he neglects to note how that horrible 17-fold increase led to a concomitant decrease in the use of other herbicides, less fuel use, less labor, less tilling, less soil loss, and more profits for farmers. 

Of course not.  That's inconsistent with his agenda. 

It is sort of like saying that there has been a 17-fold increase in flat screen TV cleaner from 2000 to 2015.  

Here's a little version you can cut and paste in a bathroom stall at your local Chipotle. 

But what should we learn from this?  

In a time where the anti-GMO movement realizes that the science is tight, and that plants are safe for humans and the environment, the new target is the herbicide used in their cultivation. 

Hansen simply augments this fear, playing along with the newest salvo in the flat-earth science that now wants you to think that there is a deadly herbicide in everything you eat, in every glass of water, or every bottle of breastmilk. 

If they have to bend statistics to frighten, why do people believe it? 

Because it reinforces their beliefs. 

Don't fall for it.  Point out the simple reality that what appears to be a dramatic increase is actually a step forward, and that every big change is not so big, if the denominator is close to zero. 

Popular posts from this blog

Scientific American Destroys Public Trust in Science

This is a sad epitaph, parting words to an old friend that is now gone, leaving in a puff of bitter betrayal. 
When I was a kid it was common for my mom to buy me a magazine if I was sick and home from school.  I didn't want MAD Magazine or comic books.  I preferred Scientific American
The once stalwart publication held a unique spot at the science-public interface, bringing us interesting and diverse stories of scientific interest, long before the internet made such content instantly accessible.  It was our trusted pipeline to the new edges of scientific discovery, from the mantle of the earth to the reaches of space, and every critter in between.
But like so much of our trusted traditional science media, Scientific American has traded its credibility for the glitz of post-truth non-scientific beliefs and the profits of clickbait.The problem is that when a trusted source publishes false information (or worse, when it hijacked by activists) it destroys trust in science, trust in s…

Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 

From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…

Mangling Reality and Targeting Scientists

Welcome to 2019, and one thing that remains constant is that scientists engaging the public will continue to be targeted for harassment and attempted reputation harm.  

The good news is that it is not working as well as it used to.  People are disgusted by their tactics, and only a handful of true-believers acknowledge their sites as credible. 

But for those on the fence I thought it might be nice to post how a website like SourceWatch uses a Wikipedia-mimic interface to spread false and/or misleading information about public scientists. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not crying victim.  I'm actually is screaming empowerment.  I spent the time to correct the record, something anyone can check.  Please look into their allegations and mine, and see who has it right. 

This is published by the Center for Media and Democracy.  Sadly, such pages actually threaten democracy by providing a forum for false information that makes evidence-based decisions in policy issues more challenging.  It…